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Archive for the ‘1956’ Category

wt15_rr_joekane_

John Knight mentioned the great Republic director Joe Kane in a comment this morning, and this photo came to mind. Here, Joe’s visiting Roy Rogers on the set of his TV show.

From the mid-30s till the studio’s demise, Kane was a house director at Republic Pictures. He made a slew of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers movies, and produced and directed Republic’s larger-scale films such as Jubilee Trail (1954) and The Maverick Queen (1956). Sadly, his later films are almost impossible to see today, especially if you’re a stickler for things like 1.85 or Naturama.

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G Walcott 87th Precinct

Gregory Walcott (Bernard Wasdon Mattox)
(January 13, 1928 – March 20, 2015)

Battle Cry (1955). Mister Roberts (1955). The Sugarland Express (1974). Thunderbolt And Lightfoot (1974). Norma Rae (1979). Gregory Walcott was in some very good films. But he’ll always be known for having the lead in Ed Wood’s Plan Nine From Outer Space (1959).

Born in Wendell, North Carolina — just a few miles from where I’m typing this, Walcott hitchhiked to Hollywood after a couple years in the Army. Before long his film career was off and running. His 50s Westerns include Strange Lady In Town (1955), Thunder Over Arizona (1956) and Badman’s Country (1958, a Fred F. Sears/George Montgomery picture I just watched last week). His TV credits are a mile long, including a couple episodes of The Rifleman and a lead role in 87th Precinct (above).

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Roy Rogers Tru-Vue.

Roy Rogers TruVue

Look what my wife found at the flea market today — a Roy Rogers Tru-Vue film card. You know, there’s nothing cooler than Roy Rogers merchandise. If I won the lottery, that’s how I’d spend my time and money, collecting Rogers stuff.

Thanks, Jennifer.

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Star In The Dust UK

Directed by Charles Haas
Starring John Agar, Mamie Van Doren, Richard Boone, Leif Erickson, Coleen Gray, James Gleason, Randy Stuart, Terry Gilkyson, Harry Morgan, Clint Eastwood

I tend to stay away from plugging foreign releases, mainly since I don’t want to encourage someone to spend their hard earned on something they may not be able to play once it shows up. Luckily, John Knight brings ’em up in the comments for those who’re interested.

In the case of Star In The Dust (1956), I’m going to break my rule. First, I really like the movie. Next, I like John Agar. He made some cool Westerns and sci-fi flicks. Plus, I met him a few times and he was a really, really nice man.

mamie_agarIt’s an Albert Zugsmith production with a great cast — Agar, Mamie Van Doren, Richard Boone, Leif Erickson, Coleen Gray, James Gleason, Harry Morgan. It’s like a master class in character acting. The story’s good, director of photography John L. Russell Jr. does a great job (shot for 2:1), and Charles Haas’ direction has a real snap to it. It’s coming in May from Koch Media with its English tracks.

As you probably know, there’s a look and texture to Universal’s Westerns of the 50s, and this one has it in spades. Highly recommended.

Thanks for the tip, John.

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Pillars Of The Sky HS sized

New York’s 92nd Street Y is hosting a class on Westerns of the 50s. Hosted by Kurt Brokaw, Associate Teaching Professor at The New School and senior film critic of The Independent magazine, it’s got a really terrific roster of films. The classes are Tuesday nights, beginning April 14, with two films each night.

Man, I wish I could get to this.

Week 1
Broken Lance
(1954) Directed by Edward Dmytryk, starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Jean Peters, Richard Widmark, Katy Jurado
The Badlanders (1956) Directed by Delmer Daves, starring Alan Ladd, Ernest Borgnine, Katy Jurado

Week 2
Saddle The Wind
(1958) Directed by Robert Parrish, starring Robert Taylor, Julie London, John Cassavetes
Dawn At Socorro (1954) Directed by George Sherman, starring Rory Calhoun and Piper Laurie

Week 3
Pillars Of The Sky
(1956) Directed by George Marshall, starring Jeff Chandler, Dorothy Malone, Ward Bond, Lee Marvin
Backlash (1956) Directed by John Sturges, starring Richard Widmark, Donna Reed, William Campbell, John McIntire

Diablo TC

Week 4
Ride Clear Of Diablo
(1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Susan Cabot
The Outriders (1950) Directed by Roy Rowland, starring Joel McCrea, Arlene Dahl, James Whitmore, Barry Sullivan

Week 5
Back To God’s Country
(1953) Directed by Joseph Pevney, starring Rock Hudson, Marcia Henderson, Steve Cochran, Hugh O’Brien
Black Horse Canyon (1954) Directed by Jesse Hibbs, starring Joel McCrea and Mari Blanchard

Week 6
Seven Men From Now
(1956) Directed by Budd Boetticher, starring Randolph Scott, Gail Russell, Lee Marvin, Walter Reed
Gun Fury (1953) Directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Rock Hudson, Donna Reed, Philip Carey, Lee Marvin

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Fury At Gunsight Pass TC

Directed by Fred F. Sears
Produced by Wallace MacDonald
Story and Screen Play by David Lang
Director Of Photography: Fred Jackman, Jr.
Film Editor: Saul A. Goodkind, ACE
Music Conducted by Mischa Bakaleinikoff

Cast: David Brian (Whitey Turner), Neville Brand (Dirk Hogan), Richard Long (Roy Hanford), Lisa Davis (Kathy Phillips), Katharine Warren (Mrs. Boggs), Percy Helton (Peter Boggs), Morris Ankrum (Doc Phillips), Addison Richards (Charles Hanford), Joe Forte (Andrew Ferguson), Wally Vernon (Johnny Oakes), Paul E. Burns (Squint)

Fury At Gunsight Pass titleHow many plot twists and double-crosses can you cram into 68 minutes? That’s something you might ask yourself about two-thirds of the way through Fury At Gunsight Pass (1956), a cheap little Columbia Western directed by Fred F. Sears.

It goes something like this: a group of bank robbers ride into Gunsight Pass. The robbery goes awry, part of the gang is captured, but the money isn’t recovered. The men of Gunsight Pass quickly become a mob, ready for a lynching. As the prisoners are being escorted out of town (to avoid the vigilantes), the rest of the gang (lead by Neville Brand) ambushes the posse, frees their cohorts and returns to town to locate the loot. With a windstorm raging, they announce they’ll start shooting civilians — one every 30 minutes — till the money is handed over.

Fury At Gundight Pass LC

Fury At Gunsight Pass works a bit like Allan Dwan’s Silver Lode (1954), stacking circumstance on top of circumstance and piling on plenty of suspicion and paranoia as it goes. Plenty of suspense, too. This is a well-crafted little movie.

Wallace MacDonald produced a lot of Westerns for Columbia in the 50s, including some good ones like Ambush At Tomahawk Gap (1952), The Hard Man (1957) and Return To Warbow (1958). His unit often worked from scripts by David Lang, who wrote a lot of Westerns before making his way to TV. Lang’s work here is original, very tight and economical.

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David Brian and Neville Brand are appropriately shifty as double-crossing bank robbers. Richard Long is a bit wooden as one of the citizens of Gunsight Pass, though he’s good in the fight scenes. Percy Helton and Katharine Warren make quite an impression as the crooked undertaker and his wife. Lisa Davis isn’t given much to do. And, of course, Morris Ankrum is terrific as the town doctor.

Director Fred F. Sears was so prolific, cranking out one B movie after another for Columbia, it’s easy to miss his real successes among all the standard stuff. Today he’s known for Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), a picture that benefits from remarkable stop-motion animation from Ray Harryhausen, and The Giant Claw (1957), a film completely scuttled by some of the worst, most laughable special effects in Hollywood history. Sears died in his office at Columbia in November, 1957, with eight pictures completed and waiting for release. He’s one of those B filmmakers whose work is ripe for rediscovery. His Ambush At Tomahawk Gap is a real sleeper — and so is Fury At Gunsight Pass.

Fury another ad

Cinematographer Fred Jackman, Jr. had a lot of Westerns under his belt by the time he came to Gunsight PassStrawberry Roan (1948), Fighting Man Of The Plains (1949) and Apache Ambush (1955), to name a few. (He was good with Cinecolor.) A tremendous amount of Fury At Gunsight Pass was shot at Vasquez Rocks, and Jackman’s black and white, 1.85 photography looks great. Columbia made frequent use of Vasquez Rocks for their 50s Westerns. (According to a quick look at Google Maps, it’s only 43 miles from the studio.) The scenes in town, during the windstorm, which make up the last 15-20 minutes of the film, feature wind machines and tons and tons of dirt. It must’ve been absolute hell for both the cast and crew.

Columbia hasn’t gotten around to putting this one on DVD, which is a real shame. It’s unusual and suspenseful — and well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.

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Quiet Gun TC cropped

Directed by William Claxton
Starring Forrest Tucker, Mara Corday, Jim Davis, Kathleen Crowley, Lee Van Cleef, Hank Worden

They say good things come to those who wait. Well, The Quiet Gun (1956) is a very good movie — maybe the best of the Regalscope Westerns. And we’ve been (almost patiently) waiting quite some time since Olive Films hinted at its release. This is one many of us have been longing for in all its widescreen glory, and it’ll be a joy to toss the almost unwatchable pan-and-scan bootleg I’ve had for years. It’s coming on both DVD and Blu-ray March 31.

What’s more, Republic’s Stranger At My Door (1956) from William Witney is part of the same batch of releases. It’s an excellent picture starring Macdonald Carey, Patricia Medina and Skip Homeier.

Thanks to John and Laura for this wonderful news. I can’t wait.

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